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Is there any way to avoid a preps gig as your first job?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by GAWalker, Jun 18, 2015.

  1. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    You could always only apply for college/pro beat jobs, or desk jobs, and see what happens. If you really do have some good clips and if you can interview well, there's nothing that says you can't start out higher, although it would probably require you getting hired at a mid-major metro or metro newspaper, or at a web site, in order for it to happen. It's actually easier to do these days than it used to be, though.

    What did you cover during your internship with the major state paper? And did you let them know you'd like to be retained as a regular staff member when it ended? Was that ever a possibility?
  2. GAWalker

    GAWalker New Member

    Now this is the kind of stuff I was hoping to hear. And frankly, it's the kind of thing I wish I 'd heard in J-School.

    I never expected to walk into a SEC or Big 10 beat, but all I've ever heard the last three years is about how, with my resume, clips and experience, I should have no problem jumping into a smaller college beat, assuming I'd be willing to move to the job (which of course, I am). With that carrot dangling in front of me, I became an absolute workaholic my final two years just to avoid being in a situation like the one I bolded above. It seems there is a disconnect between professionals and journalism professors.

    If I hadn't had smoke blown in my face for two years by professors and advisers, I probably would've re-enrolled in my STEM field and viewed the paper and freelancing as more of a hobby and less as a job.
  3. GAWalker

    GAWalker New Member

    Most were able to lock up jobs with recruiting sites or weeklies that are subsidiaries of metro papers.
  4. Riptide

    Riptide Well-Known Member

    Be wary of those desk jobs.
    You might never get off the desk.
  5. GAWalker

    GAWalker New Member

    They've had me on SEC football, Sun Belt, minor league baseball, PGA Tour and a little preps stuff. It's really been great and I've had the opportunity to learn a lot from some of their more experienced guys. I've already been told they want someone more experienced for their beat opening, though they said I might have a shot at the preps gig if it opens up.

    Those are really the only jobs I've applied for as of yet. However, my college fund and scholarships are running on fumes, so I've gotta find a way to be financially stable by August. It's getting to the stage where I may just have to bite the bullet and stick my head in the oven for a couple years with a preps job.
  6. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    Why don't you continue to freelance for AP? There are people who do that regularly, and some who do it enough to live on, with help from other freelance assignments for which they hustle.

    Personally, I think you might enjoy doing preps if you really try to own it. Believe it or not, there are stories on that level that are truly original, that you can get no place else. But you don't want to work that hard, for not much recognition. That's what it seems like.

    I don't blame you. If you're a young person in sports writing today, the key is to start out as high as possible if you want to get anywhere -- and especially if you want to get anywhere fast. As I said, that's actually easier to do these days than it was 10 or 20 years ago, so you may actually be in luck if you've got the right -- good enough -- stuff and find the right job.

    Whatever you do, do not take any job in which you will go in feeling like you're sticking your head in the oven.
  7. expendable

    expendable Well-Known Member

    Part of me wants to say that you have to eat your vegetables in order to get dessert, but another part understands how quickly one can get typecast, and you need to guard against taking anything you absolutely hate.
    Dick Whitman likes this.
  8. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    You also should not keep looking down on anybody, and should consider renewing your connections with fellow college newspaper staffers who apparently have had more success landing a gig than you have, and see if maybe they could put you in touch with someone who might make a difference at some of the recruiting sites and local subsidiaries of metros they're at.

    Or, you could talk to Tyler Dunne and see if he's got any advice for you. Look him up.
    Tyler Greenawalt and slappy4428 like this.
  9. DeskMonkey1

    DeskMonkey1 Active Member

    This. I'm 10 years in with no hopes of getting out of it
  10. pseudo

    pseudo Well-Known Member

    Nah, that last part wouldn't work, because Dunne started with an internship and then a preps job after he graduated. And there are obviously no good stories at the high school level.

    'Best American Sports Writing' volume commends Journal Sentinel reporter Tyler Dunne
    Tweener likes this.
  11. Clippers Logo

    Clippers Logo New Member

    Honestly, with the way some chains are starting to devalue preps coverage, you might have a shot. But the question is: Will the alternatives to preps at those papers be even worse?

    I spent 2008-2010 covering an NCAA Division II program (football, men's and women's basketball and baseball) with some preps stuff thrown in to round out my time. Did a college wooden-bat league during the summers. That was a refreshing, relaxing change of pace from what I was used to -- and what I'm doing now. That's the kind of job you have a good chance at if you're willing to work in a market where the circulation is 15,000 or less.
  12. GAWalker

    GAWalker New Member

    I think knowing what I bolded has really built a lot of anxiety about the situation. I don't want to get buried as soon as the next crop of talented writers comes up the ranks.

    As far as the underlined portion, you're more or less right. The audience is so minimal for it. Most anyone who cares about the games was there. And while there are some nice individual stories, the stories really don't differ that much. The local kid who got cancer, had too many concussions or died in a car accident with his girlfriend. Sure, it's a nice, inspirational story and people will certainly share it on social media, especially if you mention how it brought them closer to God or the community. Hell, if it's good enough, you may even land in Best American Sports Writing or have an overdramatic, made-for-TV movie made one day. But the stories are just so dry to me. I haven't read a preps story that I truly enjoyed in ages.

    I imagine I'll have to swallow my pride and find a way to be passionate about preps. It's easy to feed off the passion of collegiate and professional sports, even in smaller markets. I feel nothing but apathy when I'm covering high school sports.
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